Each year at this time we gorge ourselves on the dazzling tech developments coming from CES. And heading into SXSW season this March, we should expect to see more about connected technology, conversation platforms, virtual and augmented reality, connected devices, and how marketers can leverage all of it. But, set against the melodic line of innovation is an equally interesting counterpoint in the form of techno-resistance.
While such resistance is not new, these sentiments are becoming more mainstream in a more discerning, more mature, and less polarized way. Mobile-phone free zones, tech-less travel, and mindful living have been buzzing in the background as emerging trends for a few years. But, the general mood of more people seems to be making the modern techno-resistance question not one about “whether to tech, or not to tech.” It’s all about balance.
A few brands are taking aim at our technology-obsessed society in clever ways.
Nike’s new “Time is Precious” campaign takes aim at smart phone and social media users, reminding them of how much time they spent glued to their screens (when they could be outside running). The videos use a Siri-like voice to tell us how much time we’re wasting “watching other people’s picture of their cafe macchiato, or their dog, or their baby,” while single words flash up on a black screen.
All topics are fair game — hashtags, cat videos, photographing food, reality shows, Tinder, and online petitions – which come off as refreshingly human and authentic. And while it is likely many Nike customers use technology to track their fitness, technology is not the target, obsession with technology is. The message shows the brand understands people.
We’re hearing a lot about virtual reality and augmented reality. Despite the technology continuing to advance in leaps and bounds, Jaguar New Zealand showed that technology still can’t replicate the acceleration, speed and thrill of experiencing an F-TYPE.
In a clever ambient ad called “Actual Reality” Jaguar invites passengers to step into what looks like an F-Type mounted on 6 hydraulic arms. Passengers put on a head set and strap in, while unbeknownst to them, a Jaguar Precision Driver takes the driver’s seat and then takes the car on an actual racing track hidden behind the platform. The passenger is wearing the headset the whole time and thinks the experience is totally virtual. At the end of the journey, the surprise on passengers’ faces is priceless. Jaguar shows us that while there’s a lot of hype about what VR can do, there’s still a lot of value in experiencing real reality.
Finally, in the news last week, Medium’s founder and CEO Evan Williams laid off one-third of the staff and closed two offices. Williams (who co-founded Twitter) created Medium as a new model for media on the Internet. But when they began rolling out native ads and sponsored content in October, they realized they were off-mission. Williams said, “Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. ….so, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.”
It’s likely they took a page from Facebook’s playbook where there’s been more and more a decline in original sharing which no-doubt correlates with the increase of professional and promoted content. It’s changed the nature of the platform from conversation, to content aggregators. Users still visit Facebook daily, but are moving their conversation to other apps and platforms.
It remains to be seen how Medium will fund itself, which is itself a separate discussion on developing a platform without understanding how it can be business-viable. But what Williams observes is key: Ad-driven media does not serve people.
For brands capitalizing on techno-resistance, consider the following:
- Have a point of view on technology: Where does it fit into your customers’ lives? Can your brand find a way to acknowledge the reality of how humans use technology in a memorable way? Nike goes for the candid and witty direct dialogue with runners. What about parents? Google Wi-Fi launched in October includes a “family pause” switch to disrupt Wi-Fi signals during ‘family time’. The more real the POV, the better it will resonate.
- Don’t innovate, Invent: As digital platforms (like Medium) look for better ways to support their communities, what is the role brands might play in connecting with these platforms. To some extent, sponsored content and native ads can be indistinguishable from fake news. Medium knows there is a better way (even if it doesn’t know what that looks like). Brands should find ways to create that ‘better way’ in partnership with the platform to offer the best experience for customers.
- High-contrast reality: Explore ideas that allow real-life to be contrasted with technology in fun ways. Play off current technology trends in fun ways that encourage customers to do the real thing. I recently wrote about how France’s Monoprix ran a counter-technology ad versus the Amazon Go concept, “You don’t need an app to go shopping. Just put your phone down, and shop.”
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